Castaic Elementary School welcomed 16 new students to its classrooms Tuesday morning, as part of a cross-continental educational partnership and international immersion experience.
The students are all from Hunnan No. 1 primary school in China and will spend two weeks to a month living and learning with students from Castaic Elementary as they immerse themselves in English-based education.
“We want them to learn about local culture and learn something that we can’t learn in our county, and we want them to make friends,” said Wang Zhao, a Chinese teacher at the Hunnan No. 1 primary school.
The partnership includes schools within the Castaic Union School District, Los Angeles Language Academy and Dalian Dante Education Consulting Co., Ltd.
Castaic Elementary School first became involved with the international program when Ruan Fen, principal of LA Language Academy, reached out to the school to host students over the summer.
Months later in September, Fen contacted Castaic Elementary School Principal Stephanie Beach again, but this time for a full-immersion program.
“She asked if we could have students come to our school again, but this time for two weeks,” Beach told The Signal in November. “The students coming to us from there are in third through sixth grade… they have to be proficient in their English and have parental support.”
The students that arrived Tuesday morning were the first of two student groups that will be attending Castaic Elementary School, living with host families and sightseeing during the weekends during January and February.
According to Beach, the second group of students will arrive on campus Feb. 10.
Zhao said parents of children who are in the program hope that they learn the difference between the two countries’ education systems and practice speaking English.
“In school, [the students] learn from English books, but we want our children to practice English and speak smoothly,” Zhao said. “We also want them to learn the ability to be independent and feel the American culture… and how to be respectful to everyone.”
Beach hopes the cultural lessons will also be passed along to students at her school.
“I hope they learn another culture, to be empathic to cultures and to make foreign friends,” she said.
During the morning of their first day, the foreign exchange students were already learning alongside the elementary school students.
In Claudia Kirk’s second and third grade class, students worked together in small group stations where they completed worksheets, read chapter books, drew pictures and practiced writing.
“I was so excited,” third grade student Reese Watt, 9, said of the students’ arrival. “I was hoping they could teach me some [Chinese] words.”
Student Paige Hanks said she was also looking forward to having students from another country in her class.
“I’m excited to help them, teach them and play with them,” she said.
Zhao hopes that one day the cross-continental partnership will allow students from Castaic Elementary School to visit her Chinese primary school to experience the different culture and education system.
Until then, she and others involved are looking forward to the opportunity for the Chinese students and the future of the partnership.
“The children looked forward to coming here for a long time,” Zhao said. “Thank you for providing this chance for us.”
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